Archive for April, 2013

April is National Volunteer Month!

April is National Volunteer Month!

We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of the amazing individuals who have dedicated their service to Blue Ridge over the years. Deepest thanks to our most loyal volunteers:

Marie & Frank Pardue
Dave/Kathy Shute
Paige Ryan
Paul/Nina Montgomery
Mary & Ralph Noble
Betty Davis
Louise Sims
Dan & Susan Harvey
Rosemary Smith
Rose Bennett
Richard/Nancy Weeks
Ann Weeks
Suzanne Mabie
Ginny/Mel Diehl
Jacqueline/Ed Webster
Jerry/Nancy Bullock
Joe/Sybil Brindley
Leslie/Richard Dennis

Also, special recognition goes to Jim Ingram and John Wolford who serve double-duty on our Board of Directors. And to countless others who have volunteered their time and talents, we salute you. YOU make our mission possible.

Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteers Claire and Ila await their next customer at the new coffee shop

Volunteers Claire and Ila await their next customer at the Eureka Cafe

Two of our most recent volunteers, Claire Miller and Ila Lewis, came to us from a suburb of Sacramento, California. Ila heard of Blue Ridge during her time volunteering at Colorado’s Estes Park YMCA in the fall of 2011 and recruited Claire as her travel companion.

Former coworkers (both now retired) the pair set out for a service-learning adventure in the Appalachian mountains. They scheduled an entire month to make their journey across the country, including two weeks at Blue Ridge!

What is your favorite part about Blue Ridge?
Claire: I’m a nature enthusiast so the peaceful setting of the Assembly is my idea of sublime
Name three words to summarize your time on the mountain:
Claire: 1) Welcoming 2) Busy 3) Worthwhile
What are your plans when you return home?
Ila: I plan to look into some more volunteer work in my community.

Ila and Claire served for 2 weeks and were able to work in nearly all departments, including the BRAND NEW coffee shop in Blue Ridge Center on its opening week.

We’re so grateful for their service and are looking forward to seeing our next batch of volunteers in just a few weeks!

To learn more about our volunteer program, contact Campus life Director olovejoy@yblueridge.org.


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For eight years, Black Mountain College occupied Lee Hall during the fall through spring, then stowed its belongings in the attic for the summer months, when YMCA conferences and camps were held. The annual transition eventually became too taxing and the College began to look at more convenient sites.

Just across the valley they discovered Lake Eden, a family retreat center built by Asheville developer E.W Grove in the 1920s. When the resort business dwindled in 1937, Black Mountain College purchased the property. The college’s own talented faculty were commissioned to design studio space, workshops, classrooms, and other modern campus facilities that Blue Ridge lacked. Finally in the spring of 1941, after construction for the new campus was complete, Black Mountain College officially relocated.

Lake Eden campus

Lake Eden campus

It was at the Lake Eden location that BMC could truly thrive. The most intense periods of creativity were held beginning in 1944 and became known as the “Summer Institutes.” Black Mountain College became a nurturing ground for many talents of the twentieth century and headquarters for innovation including construction of the first large-scale geodesic dome, the first multimedia “Happening,” and the publication of The Black Mountain Review.

Buckminster Fuller’s first geodesic dome

Buckminster Fuller’s first geodesic dome

The avant-garde at Black Mountain College wouldn’t always be so lively. During World War II, the majority of the male students and faculty left the campus. The student body became largely women and European refugees and the focus of curriculum evolved into more literary arts. Many of the students and faculty sought opportunities elsewhere and would go on to impact modern art movements in larger metropolitan cities like San Francisco, New York, or Paris.

By the 1950s, Black Mountain College, like many other experimental American institutions, struggled to exist. Enrollment decreased and eventually the college could no longer stay afloat. The college suspended classes by court order in 1957 and in 1962, the school’s books were finally closed with all debts covered.

Over its memorable 23 year history, Black Mountain College served about 1,200 students. Due to BMC’s academic intensity, small size, geographic remoteness, as well as the social upheaval of the time, few of those students actually graduated from the college. Despite these challenges and the school’s lack of formal accreditation, the legacy of Black Mountain College still lives on today.

Black Mountain College: The Legacy

Black Mountain College is considered one of the most important and influential experiments in education in the 20th century. Even now, decades after its closing, the powerful influence of Black Mountain College continues to reverberate in the local community and around the world. An extraordinarily large number of BMC alumni went on to make major contributions in the fields of architecture, literature, theatre, music, and dance – as artists, architects, writers, teachers, businesspeople, and in many other careers.

Many artists and writers now known around the world were associated with Black Mountain College as teachers or students. These included:

Writers/Poets: Charles Olson, Francine du Plessix Gray, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Jonathan Williams, Ed Dorn, and Robert Creeley.
Potters/Sculptors: Peter Voulkos, Robert C. Turner, M.C. Richards
Painters: Josef Albers, Jacob Lawrence, Cy Twombly,  Kenneth Noland, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Ben Shahn, Leo Krikorian, Dorothea Rockburne
Composer: John Cage
Architect: Buckminster Fuller
Choreographer: Merce Cunningham
Photographer: Jonathon Williams
Filmmaker/Actor: Arthur Penn
Printmaker/Typographer: Gregory Masurovsky


In 1993, 60 years after the founding of BMC, the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center was opened in downtown Asheville. The Museum serves as an exhibition space and resource center dedicated to exploring the history of the college. Through exhibitions, publications, lectures, films, seminars, and oral history interviews BMCM+AC is committed to spreading awareness of Black Mountain College and its important legacy. Other projects include promoting alumni events and managing a permanent archive for the artwork, historical materials and publications related to the College. In 2008 the Museum celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the college.

Today, the Black Mountain College Historic District is located on 600 acres of the original Lake Eden tract. Camp Rockmont, a boys summer camp, which opened the year that BMC closed, still operates in the summer months while the LEAF festival is held every spring and fall, celebrating world cultures through music and the arts, a mission that stands true to the College’s legacy.

BMC Lee Hall porch

As the birthplace of Black Mountain College, YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly is honored to have been a part of this legacy as well. BMC is one of many milestones in our association’s rich and complex history. It should be noted that just three years after the college relocated, Blue Ridge was reincorporated under the ownership of the YMCAs of the South, undergoing a major renewal program to modernize buildings and expand services. This pivotal moment in our past enabled us to touch countless more lives, impact generations to come, and has shaped who we are today.

Looking back on the fascinating story of Black Mountain College, we are grateful for all of the movers, the shakers, and the leaders who have been a part of our journey. It is our hope that the future of the Assembly is full of the same inspirational vigor and vitality that Black Mountain College provided and look forward to sharing it with you all in the years to come.

Famous quotes about Black Mountain College

Famous quotes about Black Mountain College


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The college was an intense, high-pressure, exciting educational experience, one that disturbed students’ ideas of the status quo and often profoundly changed their lives. It required nothing but expected everything – a total commitment of emotion, intellect, and creativity.”               – Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center

Black Mountain College was the first American college of its kind, an experimental school born out of John Dewey’s principles of experiential education. Central to the college was the idea that the arts are at the core of the experience of learning. Its founders believed that exploration of the arts- whether visual arts, music, literature, drama, or dance– are valuable in learning self-discipline and self-expression.

John Dewey, American philosopher and educator who inspired the Black Mountain College philosophy

John Dewey, American philosopher who inspired  Black Mountain College’s progressive education model

Also central to the philosophy of the school was the idea of community. Dedicated to the concept of democratic governance, the college strived to employ very few outsiders and be as self-sufficient as possible with no administration. The students and faculty themselves took part in the college’s operations, including farm work, building maintenance, and kitchen duty.

BMC students were expected to take individual responsibility for their education; to be engaged in the learning process; and to seek, find and create opportunities for personal growth. This meant few rules and regulations: no required curriculum, no schedule of exams, and no formal grades.

BMC academia

Black Mountain College academia

Lee Hall provided the ideal accommodations for the college community. Classes and lectures were held in the lobby, the porch offered dynamic places for group meetings, and the lawns and rooftops provided unique spaces for social gatherings. The building even hosted the College’s legendary Halloween parties each year in the basement.

While some faculty lived with the students in dormitory wings of Lee Hall, staff with families resided in the nearby cottages. Lastly, the dining hall just behind Lee Hall served as a center of intellectual and innovative activity, where students and professors could converse over shared meals.

Social gatherings on Lee Hall porch

Social gatherings on Lee Hall porch

BMC students eating lunch on the dining room patio

Students & Faculty

Black Mountain College attracted immigrant artists from around the world to teach at the campus.  This faculty, well-known in their respected fields, became magnets to young amateurs who were eager to learn and experience new artistic methods and theories. Students came to BMC from across the country, many by word of mouth. Enrollment was sometimes 50, sometimes 10, but never more than 100 students at any one time.

BMC Students and professor Josef Albers on Lee Hall porch

BMC students and professor Josef Albers on Lee Hall porch

With small classes and one-to-one tutoring, students and faculty were in close everyday contact. These unsanctioned mentorships and apprenticeships eventually played out and it was not uncommon for students to go on to become teachers at the college themselves. The school created a critical mass of professionals in many different areas of art- music, dance, painting, photography, poetry, and sculpture. Yet the overlying goal remained consistent: to challenge mainstream social values.

The progressive reputation of Black Mountain College grew quickly and generated a buzz in the industry, attracting other notable contemporaries of the time. It drew such guest lecturers as Thornton Wilder (1934), Louis Adamic (1935), Aldous Huxley (1937), William Carlos Williams (1940s), Henry Miller (1940s), and Clement Greenberg (1950) . Even Albert Einstein and the schools “founding father” John Dewey made several visits and eventually became members of the College’s Advisory Board.

Multi-talented artists and performers

Multi-talented artists and performers


Social gatherings on Lee Hall steps

Next up…Our final installment to the series:Black Mountain College: The Later Years

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The 1920 and 30s emerged as one of the most turbulent periods in American history. Many businesses were undergoing a transformation in response to the Great Depression and the execution of many new government-sponsored public works projects. YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly was no exception.

In 1932 the Blue Ridge property was put up for public sale as a result of a decrease in conference attendance and the failure of local banks. Weatherford was able to raise enough money to save the Assembly but it was legally necessary to reorganize under the name of “Blue Ridge College, Inc.” That following year in1933 a new 21-member governing board of trustees met to discuss the future of the Assembly.

Coincidentally during that same time a group of professors and students from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida were in search of a place to start their dream: a new liberal arts college built around the foundations of community, self-expression and intellectual freedom. The group of non-conformists was led by John Rice, Classics professor at Rollins College who was frustrated by the rigid educational models of the time. His colleague, Bob Wunsch, was a native of Asheville and familiar with Blue Ridge Assembly. Wunsch recommended the site to Rice who visited the property in the spring of 1933 and immediately fell in love with the mountain setting, just as Dr. Weatherford had done 27 years earlier.

John Rice, founder of Black Mountain College

John Rice, founder of Black Mountain College

The Blue Ridge property was a self-contained ready-made campus, complete with dormitory space, dining hall, gymnasium, library, auditorium, and even a maintenance garage.

“Perfect. Here was peace. Here was also central heating against the cold of winter, blankets, sheets, dishes, flatware, enough for a dozen colleges, all at a moderate rental”, Rice wrote enthusiastically.

Most of all, the rural and pristine environment of Blue Ridge would foster a sense of creative inspiration that was the foundation of the school’s mission.

Rice and his team spent the summer raising funds for the school. In August a lease was signed with the Assembly for $4500 a year, funding which helped to lift Blue Ridge out of from financial hardship and temporally secure year-round operation.  The primary stipulation was that that the college personnel and equipment would have to vacate all buildings each spring to make room for the Assembly’s regular summer YMCA conferences.

Black Mountain College opened their campus in September of 1933 with ten teachers and twenty-two students. Little did they know at the time, it was history in the making and Blue Ridge would be a part of it.

Coming soon… Black Mountain College: Campus Life (Part 2 of 3)

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